GREENBURGH, N.Y. - J.R. Smith wanted to start this season, but became the best sixth man in the NBA.
Smith will be named the Sixth Man of the Year for his strong season off the bench. The NBA will present him with the award this afternoon at the Knicks practice facility.
Smith averaged career-highs of 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 80 games, all as a reserve. He scored at least 20 points 29 times and had seven games of least 30 points.
Smith also hit two game-winning shots at the buzzer this season.
He was the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the period ending March 31 after averaging 29.8 points and leading the Knicks to a 4-0 mark.
Smith, 27, signed a two-year $5.7 million deal last summer. He makes $2.8 million this season and next year is due $2.9 million, but it’s a player option.
Smith likely will opt out after the season. The most the Knicks can pay him is average salary, which is roughly $5 million. He might be able to get more elsewhere but he probably won’t get as much leeway as Mike Woodson gave him all season. Before this year, Smith clashed with his coaches, including George Karl and Byron Scott.
Smith joins Anthony Mason (1994-95) and John Starks (1996-97) as the only other Knick to win the award.